To The Editor:
To acting state Office of Mental Health Commissioner Kristin Woodlock:
The St. Lawrerce County Workforce Investment Board fully supports the regional effort to keep the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center fully funded and operating to provide a comprehensive range of residential programs including children and youth services, adult services and a sex offender treatment program.
In fact, the WIB is convinced that the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center, with five colleges and universities located in St. Lawrence County, and many more in the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Centers catchment area, clearly has the potential to form the educational affiliations and partnerships needed to develop St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center into a regional center of excellence.
As you are aware, the north country covers almost 25 percent of the states land mass, and the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center is the only such facility in this region. For over 100 years, the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center has provided high quality care for residents of this region. If this center were closed, traveling to and utilizing the services of other facilities would create serious hardships and potentially deter individuals and families who are already economically stressed from seeking and continuing the care that they need.
And, make no mistake about it: there is already serious economic stress in the region. The WIB sees this economic stress on a daily basis, since its One Stop Career Center provides job search and training assistance to people who are frequently down on their luck. Many of the One Stops customers have relied on the neighboring St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center for help and should continue to do so in the future. Continuation and expansion of access for our clients to the neighborhood mental health services provided by the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center plays a critical role in the continuum of care for the unfortunate that both the workforce investment and mental health systems are supposed to provide.
Finally, the WIB is particularly well positions to understand how the critical mass of job-creating, for-profit, not-for-profit and government sector institutions varies from community to community in the north country. But in St. Lawrence County, government employment plays a disproportionately larger role than in many counties downstate. For this reason it is clear that the closure of the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center will have a significant negative impact on employment in St. Lawrence County where the unemployment rate already exceeds the statewide average. Our workforce investment system is already stretched to the breaking point as we deal with declining resources and increasing need and the last thing in the world that we want to deal with is another large contingent of dislocated workers from a psychiatric facility that has so many other good reasons for being expanded rather than being closed.
I hope you can see, therefore, that there are good, practical reasons why the St. Lawrence County Workforce Investment Board is extending its full support to keep the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center fully funded and operating. I am not signing this letter just for pro forma purposes.
Donald J. Hooper
Workforce Investment Board
St. Lawrence County